After a wonderfully rustic-chic meal at Petersham Nurseries, we left feeling like uplifted and so poor that we needed to forage for our supper... that led us like a truffle hunting spaniel to Richmond Park.
No sooner than we had entered the Park, had I spotted a crop of mushrooms... then some more... and then just one solitary parasol mushroom that simply had to be picked. Cowie agreed to stop the car. I ran out and found not just the delicious parasol mushroom, but also a red, yellow and green mushroom with pores rather than gills! The excitement of finding a mushroom wearing Ghana's football kit was almost too much for me. Was it poisonous? Was it full of polonium? Was it going to contaminate the other, benign mushroom? These were questions to ask John Wright later...
On our walk around the woods we came across loads of fungi in the leaf litter and discarded chestnut casings... it was a picture of Autumn with that deep smell of earth that anyone who lives in the countryside becomes addicted to.
We found some puffballs and a huge "beefsteak" type mushroom that weighed around 2 kgs and was attached to the trunk of a decaying tree. It smelt slightly of vinegar, but had a lovely texture.
We laid out our mushroom haul along the back seat of our car and headed home - unsure whether our cargo was deadly, tasty or just toadstools!
A cup of tea and some nerdy mycology reading later (John Wright's River Cottage Mushroom Book) and we'd managed to identify most of our mushrooms... and to our delight they were not only classified as edible, but also as good eaters!
We were fairly confident with the Common Puffball, having identified some of these on our mushroom expedition with John Wright. All you have to do is peel the spiney skin off and saute them in some butter and garlic. They are small and a bit fiddly. You're much better off with the Giant variety if you can find them.
Likewise, we were pretty happy that our Parasols were not only edible, but a really good mushroom. Apparently they are great deep fried in breadcrumbs.
Now, Cowie was very disturbed at the thought of the Bay Bolete mushroom above. Green, red and yellow - like a traffic light. But as you can see from the picture above, Halloween appearances can be deceptive! It turns out that the Bay Bolete is an excellent mushroom. Similar to a cep. I'd never seen one before so was very excited!
Having identified our shrooms we plucked up the courage to cook them up! I'll let the pictures do the talking...
It tasted deliciously of danger. Of fear. With a hint of narcotic pleasure. We were a bit underwhelmed by the mushroom flavour. But what it lacked in muchroom taste, it made up in slippy autumnal texture.
We spent the rest of the evening watching the Bourne Ultimatum fearing the worst. I had some psychosomatic tingling in my feet and legs. My throat felt tight. And our tummies did a couple of triple salcos! The noise from our tummies during the night kept most of Balham awake... but we made it through the night and survived to tell the tale. I was a great pains to explain to Emma which mushrooms we had eaten - I even left the book out and the camera with it so Emma could explain what we'd eaten to the toxicologist had it all gone tits up!
We are now keen to visit Mrs Tees, the "Mushroom Legend", down in the New Forrest.